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By:    On: 2011-09-08

 Today’s blog post, if you haven’t already guessed, is all about knives and cutting safety in general.  A lot of what will be covered may seem like common sense stuff but a refresher course is never a bad thing, right?

Knives should always be kept clean and sharp.  Keeping clean knives is imperative to preventing food-borne and other illnesses.  On the topic of preventative care, it’s also a good idea to keep a set of cutting boards for cutting different foods.  I picked up a set of thin plexiglass sheets and color-coded each sheet according to the type of food each is used for, using colored duct tape on the underside of the boards.  I use red for red meats, yellow for chicken, white for fish, pink for fish and orange for fruits and veggies.  Of course, you can always use one board and wash after every different food you cut, but to me that’s just a big pain in the foot.  The same separation principle applies to knives.  Never use the same knife to cut multiple foods without washing the knife between uses.  I have two sets of knives; one for my kitchen and one for my camping kitchen.  They all receive the same amount of TLC, including being sharpened.  By the way, did you know professionals recommend knives be sharpened every 5th use? I keep a separate sharpener with each set.  Not a whetstone but an actual sharpener.  Save the whetstone for your hiking/hunting knives; it can actually damage kitchen knives because of the way the knives are made.

I mentioned I bring a set of knives, not just one.  I do that for two reasons: to prevent cross-contamination, as I described above, and because knives are made for different purposes.  In case you thought there is just one knife – the kitchen or chef’s knife – I’ll try to cover what each knife is and what its purpose is. 

The first knife – my go-to knife – is my chef’s knife.  This is the one knife which deserves an investment. My knife is 9” long; they generally range in length from 8” to 10” and vary depending on the size of the cook’s hand and arm strength and the general comfort of the cook.  There are two main styles of chef’s knives: the classic Western and the Japanese Santoku.  I prefer this second style mostly because it’s just more comfortable for me, as I tend to cut with a rocking motion.   I use my chef’s knife primarily for cutting meats.  Because I prepare all poultry before we leave for camping trips, there’s no reason to bring two chef’s knives; that being said, if I was going to be preparing chicken, duck, turkey, etc., at the campsite, I would definitely have that second knife along for the ride.  Again, cross-contamination….

I bring along three other knives: a paring knife, a serrated knife and a utility knife.  The paring knife is great for little jobs, like peeling apples or potatoes, cutting up most veggies, etc.  The serrated bread knife is for just that – bread, pies, etc.  Not meat!!  Some people use  the serrated knife on tomatoes; that’s really more of a job for the paring knife or the utility knife.  Since I make and freeze a lot of homemade bread, my serrated knife gets used quite a lot.  Last – but certainly not least – in the list is the utility knife.  The utility knife is larger than a paring knife but smaller than chef’s knife.  Think of it as the food processor of your knife collection.  I use this baby for all of my veggie and tough fruit (melons, hard-skinned fruits) cutting. I carry all my knives and the sharpener in a pouched, leather roll I custom-made for the set.  The leather helps keep the knives dry and preserves their blades.

There is one knife I don’t typically use but which definitely deserves an honorable mention: the fish knife, a.k.a. the fillet knife.  Fillet knives are usually thinner than the other knives and are very flexible.  Sometimes they will be serrated, for cutting thicker meats, such as roasts, away from the bone.  The thinness and flexibility of this variety of knife lends precision when cutting delicate meats like fish, because the knife is easier to maneuver and makes jobs such as removing skin a lot less difficult. The fillet knife is a great tool to have, and I do have one in my kitchen.  The only reason I don’t bring one camping is we don’t eat fish on camping trips; I don’t care for most fish. 

So there you have it folks: a few tips and a lesson about knives and safety.  Do you have anything to add?  I would love to hear from you!  Please leave your comments in the box below.

Happy camping,


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